SOPA and PIPA Will Not Stop Internet Piracy, Business Solutions Will

Those concerned with copyright infringement need to upgrade their business models, not support bills like SOPA and PIPA in order to thrive in an internet economy.

Internet piracy has two origins: 1) Consumers are unwilling to pay the formal market price for music, movies, and other content; and 2) Current copyright laws are not reasonably enforceable in the new internet economy.

Although the new political muscle of internet juggernauts should raise concern, copyright infringement is not new. It became a major legislative issue in the late 1990s, due to an explosion of peer to peer sharing online. Internet providers and content holders agreed to avoid additional legislation and coordinated to notify and suspend copyright infringers found online.

In many ways, internet companies’ expanding tracking and storing of our usage data set themselves up for legal scrutiny. Providers’ limited responsibility to keep consumers from engaging in copyright infringement in earlier legislation was based on their role of being a neutral transmitter of communication, similar to telephone companies. Just like telephone companies, if providers did not manipulate the transmission of content or store user information, they would not be expected to track and enforce copyrights.

It is reasonable to expect that internet companies' larger capacity for tracking activity should be used in some way to prevent harmful counterfeit activity. However, government detection and enforcement of internet piracy still seem overly broad. As an example, the closure of Megaupload.com swept with it legal and illegal content alike, and users have little recourse to recuperate their rightful property.

Before getting indignant, however, remember that both sides of the piracy debate benefit from not changing. The old business plans that cannot survive in a new economy get privileges they should not have, and new companies can make a lot of money from inefficiencies. 

The average consumer is caught in the crossfire, as overreaching legislation appears on Congress’ floor and internet companies withdraw their services at will.

If internet companies and the traditional media industry really wanted to protect creative innovation and free speech, then they would sit down together and work out an agreement. There is shared responsibility of the private sector to foster a free, fair and safe online economy. 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Mariellen Jewers

is senior research associate for the Center for Health Care Quality at the George Washington University. She has a BA in Economics from the UMass Amherst, a Master's in International Affairs from Columbia and is a PhD student in Public Policy at George Washington.

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